228 jobs are axed in tough budget

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WEST Lothian is the first Scottish council to reveal its 2011/12 budget with over £15 million worth of cuts announced.

‘Unprecedented’ cuts of £15.403 million were detailed in what was described as the ‘most difficult budget’ any West Lothian council has had to set, following a 2.6 per cent proposed reduction in local government budgets from the Scottish Parliament.

But for the fourth year in a row, council tax has been frozen across all property bands, and it was revealed there would be no compulsory redundancies at West Lothian Council.

The 343 full time equivalent (FTE) posts proposed for cuts in the Tough Choices consultation document has been reduced to 228, saving 115 FTE council jobs.

In a local boost, £390,000 has been allocated from the additional capital grant to develop leisure facilities on council-owned land at Kettilstoun Mains, Linlithgow. The money would kickstart the development to the west of Linlithgow Leisure Centre, providing road access, power, water and drainage, to create a youth sports vision including four new pitches with changing, accommodation, meeting rooms, and storage facilities, to be managed by the wider community.

Local groups that have been consulted regarding the site include Linlithgow Rugby Club, Bailielands Football Club and 1st West Lothian Sea Scouts.

Provost Tom Kerr said: “With this money now allocated for spending during 2011/12, we have to sit down with BFC and any other interested parties to see how funds can be raised to carry the project forward.”

Linlithgow councillor Martyn Day also supported more community involvement in tough times.

Council leader Peter Johnston praised last year’s ‘valuable’ Tough Choices consultation and made commitments to education, the elderly, and greener, safer communities, with a budget that provides 21 extra police officers, free breakfast clubs in the most needy schools and maintains free personal care for the elderly.

But Labour group leader John McGinty said the SNP cuts would hit the vulnerable, saying: “The SNP budget will mean that at least a further 228 FTE jobs will be lost from the council; this is in addition to the 194 full time equivalent jobs that have been lost at West Lothian Council between March and November 2010, giving a total of over 400 full time jobs lost. ”

He added that Labour would have cut back elsewhere, to help protect jobs and frontline services.

Jane Ridgway, chair of the Joint Trade Union Committee (JTUC), welcomed the reduction in FTE jobs and lack of compulsory redundancies, but added: “The JTUC is aware that further cuts to jobs and services are inevitable over the next few years and will continue to work with the council to explore options that will reduce costs but protect services, jobs and our members’ terms and conditions.”